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UCT protesters burn priceless works of art. A history dies.
UCT protesters burn priceless works of art early 2016.
Flemming Rose: controversial proponent of free speech.

On the 22nd of July 2016, the Executive Board of the University of Cape Town (UCT) disinvited Flemming Rose, the foreign affairs editor of Jyllands-Posten, from talking at the TB Davie Academic Freedom Lecture. As a result, the memorial lecture has been cancelled for this year. This is yet another sad case of academic freedom under attack at the university.

Flemming Rose, a Danish journalist infamous for the publication of cartoons of Muhammed, was barred from speaking at UCT due to fears that his presence may incite conflicts on campus. It is crucial to note, however, that Professor Francis Peterson, acting Vice-Chancellor, didn’t suggest that Rose would be the direct cause of any conflict – yet he has been barred.

Petty justifications have arisen: declaring the ironic decision as justified on account of Rose’s supposed contravention of the limits of free speech. They claim that Rose’s presence and speech may incite violence. But as Professor David Benatar accurately argues, Rose is by no means guilty of any contravention.

Rose’s infamy arises from his publication of Muhammed cartoons to shine light on fear preventing freedom of speech. As a result, it’s highly ironic that he be silenced due to fear of reprisals. Prof. Benatar argues this, indicating that Rose cannot be held responsible for the actions of barbarians who cannot maturely deal with his presence:

“Your violent reaction to my expressing an idea does not mean that I have incited you. It means you have resorted to violence when you should not have done so.”

An institution that claims to be for academic freedom and free speech cannot reasonably make such a disgustingly illogical justification to silence an individual. If thugs make threats, you go after them, not silence the innocent. The management of UCT show once again that they do not care about justice.

Max Price, Vice Chancellor of UCT, starts off his diatribe:

“Let me start by affirming our commitment to the right to academic freedom and freedom of expression as enshrined in the South African Constitution.”

UCT protesters burn priceless works of art during early 2016.

Not only is he spineless, he’s also a liar. Prof. Benatar is once again correct in saying:

“Dr. Price’s energies should be focused on condemning those who threaten violence rather than on veiled condemnations of Mr. Rose.”

It is unclear if Price is spineless or genuinely sympathetic to the causes that he has allowed to run amok. What is certain is that he is very much partly responsible for UCT’s drop in the rankings.

A decent individual would see the irony and atrocity in this decision. It is hypocritical, illogical and stinking of capitulation to wrongdoers. It is decisions like this that further make UCT a laughing stock and further reinforces our society’s slip into serfdom.

As a student of the institution, I weep at the thinly-veiled dictatorship that my home has become. I weep for the loss of freedom, of respect, and of reason. At least a few brave individuals stand up against the barbarism that tears at the gates – and I implore all those reading this to join them. The UCT executive has committed a crime against freedom of speech, enshrined in the constitution, and against free society itself.

Forgive the emotive response, but I take this as a deeply personal attack – for when one is silenced, then all can be silenced.

  • Malinda Nel

    Thank you, Nicholas W-S. I agree absolutely.

  • Harald Sitta

    Dear NWS, My opinion about Max price i did tell him in writing after the removal of the Cecil Rhodes monument. The biggest foes of freedom are not our open enemies from the left and far left but the knee-jerk “middle of the road – please the radical crowd” doers who endanger with their cowardice the substance of academic freedom much more than the assorted rabble of the usual suspects …. Invite me for a lecture and i promise you a riot …… 🙂

  • Shadeburst

    Given the known sensibilities of the mass of the student body, it would have been like walking through Baghdad wearing a “Fuck Allah” teeshirt. Expediency wins again.

    • Harald Sitta

      I do not give a damn on the artificial sensibilities of a crowd of ignorant s!

  • Altus Pienaar

    The irony is that both the Cape Town Muslim and Christian communities have learned to foster acceptance and tolerance hardly found anywhere else in the world. I doubt if Muslims would have even spoke out, never mind resort to any kind of violence.